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Intergenerational kindness


The holiday season is months away, and the period for Christmas in July has already passed, but there’s still a Christmas tree displayed in the entrance at Wesley Enhanced Living.

The independent and assisted senior living center’s Pennypack Park location is celebrating the giving spirit by donating school supplies for students at Presentation BVM School. The supplies will be presented to the school’s 240 PreK-8 students once the school year starts.

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“All teachers pay for things out of their pockets, no matter when it’s a private school, public school or charter school,” said Marianne Garnham, principal of the school. “So to have somebody come to you from outside the school and say we want to do this for you, it’s a godsend.”

Residents have donated classroom supplies like binders, pencils and pens and art supplies, all the way to less common supplies such as Chromebook covers and even a rug for a classroom. For residents who can’t venture out to obtain the objects themselves, there’s a table-sized store set up in the main lobby for them to contribute to the drive without leaving the home.

“This drive has generated a lot of excitement in the community,” said Suzanne Lachman, executive director of the center. “[Since the kindness program started] you can feel a different mood in the community than you could two years ago.”

Lachman and other members of the kindness committee wanted to do some sort of outreach to the Northeast committee for the center’s kindness program. They reached out to Olivia Laird, a sixth-grade teacher at the school who used to work at WEL.

“Once I left Wesley I thought that would be it, but then they reached out to me about the kindness program,” said Laird, who worked at Wesley from 2014-17. “I’m so happy to have that connection again, and in this way.”

The drive began July 25, hence the Christmas in July theme, and will conclude Aug. 23. The donation amount had already exceeded the teachers’ submitted wish list by the halfway mark of the drive, and had raised $600 in addition to the supplies.

The supplies will be wrapped up like Christmas presents and delivered by a few seniors and Santa Claus early in the school year.

“Our goal is this will be a long-term relationship with the school through intergenerational programming,” Lachman said, mentioning she would like to see students and residents start a pen pal program to teach them the art of letter-writing.

Garnham agreed.

“I’m hoping the children will see it as an act of kindness from strangers, and you’re not kind only to the people you know,” Garnham said. “I hope our students will see a way to imitate the kindness in giving to others.”

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